- Amit Shah made the comment on Mahatma Gandhi in Chhattisgarh
- Gandhi laughed at cartoons of himself, said grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi
- Congress demanded an apology from Amit Shah
Drawing a distinction between the Congress and the BJP, Amit Shah had on Friday said Congress wasn't wedded to any ideology in particular as the party was only launched as a special purpose vehicle to secure Independence for the country. This is the reason, he went on, that Mahatma Gandhi advocated disbanding the Congress after Independence.
"Bahut chatur baniya tha woh (He was a clever baniya)," Mr Shah said, invoking the Father of the Nation's mercantile caste he was born into. The Congress immediately demanded an apology..
Mr Gandhi, a retired bureaucrat and former West Bengal Governor told news agency, Press Trust of India, that Mahatma Gandhi laughed at cartoons of himself. "He would have laughed at this one also but for its utter tastelessness and the hidden mischief in it," Mr Gandhi, a retired bureaucrat and former West Bengal Governor said.
His brother, Rajmohan Gandhi, retorted: "The man who overcame the British lion and snakes of communal poison in India was more than a 'chatur baniya'."
Historian Ramachandra Guha also frowned at Amit Shah's comment. "The comment was crude and ill-informed, unworthy of the president of India's ruling party," Mr Guha who has written the first of a two-part biography of the Mahatma, Gandhi before India, said, according to PTI.
The Congress demanded an apology from Mr Shah for the disparaging way in which he had spoken of Mahatma Gandhi. "The BJP president has insulted Mahatma Gandhi, the independence movement and those who bravely fought for the independence," Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.
But Amit Shah brushed aside the demand.
"Everyone has heard the context in which I made that remark... Surjewala needs to answer on a lot of principles of Gandhiji," he said.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi didn't comment. Instead, he posted Mahatma Gandhi's quote on Twitter.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said public figures must refer to the country's icons with "utmost respect and sensitivity".
CPI national secretary D Raja said Mr Shah, being president of the ruling party, should be aware of the language to be used while describing a leader of Gandhi's stature.
"We have no problem when he criticises Congress or other opposition parties (during political discourse). But dragging Mahatma Gandhi's name, using such a language is denigrating Gandhi," Mr Raja said.
According to former CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat, Mr Shah only revealed the BJP's actual opinion about Gandhi. "It just reveals the contempt the BJP-RSS has for Gandhiji," he said.